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Frequently Asked Questions

Student Group Space on Coffman Union’s Second Floor Background

Student Group Space on Coffman Union’s Second Floor

The Student Group space allocation process dates back to 1940 when Coffman Union first opened its doors. Since that time, space allocation has been a challenging task and has gone through several review processes and changes throughout the years. The Board of Governors is committed to finding a long-term solution to this historical problem. In the spring of 2010, the Student Services Fees Committee raised concerns about the current student group office space allocation process for Coffman Union’s second floor. As a result, Vice Provost for Student Affairs, Jerry Rinehart, charged the Board of Governors to examine the following issues:

  1. How might the Board address serving more student groups in the existing space available?
  2. What are the current and historical practices and rationale concerning groups which have been housed in Coffman on a regular basis?

In response, the Board did an extensive review of the current space allocation process in the fall of 2010 and spring of 2011, including:

  • Conducting a survey to all Registered Student Groups
  • Holding open forums for student groups to provide feedback
  • Researched a comparison report of 38 similar institution’s space allocation procedures
  • Formed a special ad-hoc committee which included representatives of the parties affected by any changes that could be made to the second floor

Based on all of the information collected, the Board voted on a recommendation outlining a re-configuration for the second floor of Coffman Union. The recommendation was approved by Jerry Rinehart on May 16, 2011.

In his letter to the Board, Jerry Rinehart commended the thoughtful and professional manner in which the Board conducted the space allocation review process. Jerry also stated that “space has been an issue since Coffman Union opened in 1940” and the Board’s recommendation “to not reduce the percentage of space allocated to cultural groups is wise” and “dedicating approximately 20% of the space to mixed use purposes will allow Coffman Union to better meet the needs of more student groups.”

The recommendation includes providing short-term mixed use space that can be utilized by any registered student group that needs a place to get their office work done or to hold small group meetings. Formerly, only 29 groups had a place on Coffman Union’s second floor which meant all other student groups did not have access to a place to complete office work, unless they are housed or affiliated with a University Department.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the status of the Student Group Space on Coffman Union's second floor?

In the spring of 2011, Vice Provost Jerry Rinehart approved the recommendation from the Student Unions & Activities Board of Governors to redesign the 2nd floor space to allow access to more student groups. This recommendation was in response to concerns raised by the Student Services Fees Committee about office space in Coffman Union in the spring of 2010. The Board’s specific recommendations included that 68% of the 2nd floor would be designated to cultural centers currently housed on Coffman Union’s second floor (Al-Madinah Student Cultural Center, American Indian Student Cultural Center, Asian American Student Union, Black Student Union, Disabled Student Cultural Center, La Raza Student Cultural Center, Minnesota International Student Association, Queer Student Cultural Center, Women Students Activist Collective). Additional space was dedicated to student government (MSA and GAPSA) and Commuter Connection. Finally, 20% of the space was to be designed as mixed use, shared short-term office space, lounge and storage space available to all registered student groups.

In March, 2012 The Second Floor Advisory Committee recommended to the Board of Governors location and space adjacencies for groups that will continue to have dedicated space on second floor. The BOG approved the locations in April, 2012. View the approved block plan.

During the 2012-13 academic year, the Second Floor Advisory Committee met weekly to review design plans with the second floor architect, Studio Hive, and also to discuss and recommend policies and criteria for use of the space. In addition, regular meetings were held with students from groups without dedicated spaces to discuss design and policies related to the mixed use or multi-use spaces. Construction began on the space in June, 2013, and the new space will reopen in time for fall semester, 2013.

The new space is scheduled to open to Student Groups on August 26, 2013.

See the Second Floor Advisory Committee Time Line for the Redesign

2. Why did the Board of Governors pass a recommendation to redesign Coffman Union's second floor?

Based on Vice Provost Rinehart’s charge to the Board and feedback given at four public forums, the Board of Governors confirmed the importance of the University’s core value of diversity and supported maintaining the same amount of space currently held by the Cultural Centers on Coffman’s second floor, on a semi-permanent basis. Student government and commuter student programs serve a broad base of students so the Board voted to also maintain their space on a semi-permanent basis. There has never been a space on second floor that provides space and services to support student groups that do not have office space on campus so the Board agreed that providing some short-term, shared mixed use space would be the best way to serve a broader number of student groups.

3. How much space was allocated to cultural centers, student government, and commuter connection and shared mixed-use space on Coffman Union's second floor?

  • 68% of the second floor space was designed for cultural centers (which is the same percentage previously held). Centers include Al-Madinah Student Cultural Center, American Indian Student Cultural Center, Asian American Student Union, Black Student Union, Disabled Student Cultural Center, La Raza Student Cultural Center, Minnesota International Student Association, Queer Student Cultural Center, Women Students Activist Collective.
  • 20% of the second floor will be designed as mixed use space, shared short-term office space, collaborative work spaces and storage space available to all registered student groups.
  • 8% of the second floor was designated for student government (MSA and GAPSA) and 4% to Commuter Connection.

4. What was the rationale behind the Board of Governors recommending a redesign to Coffman Union's second floor?

In their review of the current space allocation process, the Board of Governors determined:

  • There is not enough space to provide an office for all student groups desiring space in Coffman, and this has been an ongoing issue since the building opened in 1940.
  • The Student Organizations Activities Center (SOAC), Room # 226) supported a few student groups but only 50-60% of the groups regularly used the space due to its current configuration and use of modular furniture. Historically, there were several complaints related to SOAC noise and security.
  • The Cultural Centers serve a number of important functions that are critical to the University’s commitment to diversity as a core value.
  • Four public forums were held and the majority of students said cultural center spaces should be maintained and they expressed willingness to share resources and space with other groups. At the forums, no students expressed interest in the need for smaller, permanent office spaces but some students expressed desire for their student groups to have access to short-term use of a small office and storage space. There was some student support for providing more accessible space for student groups who currently do not have office space.

5. What is the Second Floor Advisory Committee?

The Second Floor Advisory Committee was formed in the fall of 2011 for student groups to be able to share their ideas for redesigning the second floor. Membership consisted of student representatives of groups that will continue to have space (Cultural Centers, Student Government and Commuter Students) and student representatives of groups without office space in Coffman Union. The committee is advised by staff from Student Unions & Activities and the Office for Equity and Diversity. Membership from the cultural representatives were self selected.

See the Second Floor Advisory Committee Time Line for more information.

6. How can I get involved with the Second Floor Advisory Committee?

Students can attend the Second Floor Advisory Committee Meetings and have opportunities to provide feedback on the process via board@umn.edu.

See the Second Floor Advisory Committee Time Line for more information.

7. What is the process for Student Group Space Allocation until the redesign occurs? Can my Student Group apply for office space?

There will no longer be a space allocation process. Groups with dedicated spaces will have a renewal process. All groups moved out for construction which began in June 2013 and will be completed in August 2013. In the new space, there will be short term office space and mixed-use space, available for all Registered Student Groups. Some storage spaces will also be available. Preliminary guidelines for use of the mixed-use space were recommended to the Board of Governors by representatives from student groups without dedicated space.

8. Can my Student Group apply for storage space?

There will be some storage space available for Registered Student Groups. The process for use of storage space will be available fall 2013.

9. If my Student Group currently had office space in the old Student Organizations Activities Center (SOAC), where will my group go when the project is completed?

There will be short term office space, mixed-use space, and storage space available for use by Registered Student Groups. The process for using the space will be determined by the Board of Governors. More information will be sent out early fall semester, 2013.

10. What will the redesign of Coffman Union's second floor look like?

The redesign of the space was determined based on input and recommendations from the Second Floor Advisory Committee and final approval from the Board and the Office for Student Affairs. A decision has been made for location of various groups. View the approved block plan.

11. Will there be any new services or office space on the second floor?

There will be new services available to all registered student groups. Student groups were surveyed in the fall of 2011 on their wants and needs for services. Services to be provided include short-term office space use, storage space, small meeting and work spaces, access to office equipment and supplies, and advising services.

12. What is the estimated cost of the redesign?

The estimated cost of the project is $2.5 million. Major building systems in the current space, such as heating, ventilation, location of elevators, and restrooms were not disrupted to help control costs.

13. How will the redesign be funded?

The renovation was funded by building reserves held by the Student Unions & Activities department.

14. Why wasn't the second floor of Coffman Union left as it was?

There was a commitment to provide a multi-use space available to all student groups. While the former configuration of offices worked well for some groups, only 29 student groups had space out of more than 800 registered student groups. Furthermore, the former smaller office spaces for student groups could be noisy, difficult to secure, and crowded when trying to get office work done. Most student groups did not have access to the potential services that will be provided in a redesigned multi-use space. The 20% of space available for use by all student groups is intended to be highly visible and accessible while providing the resources and services desired by student groups without assigned space.

15. Can more student group space be created within Coffman Union?

Other spaces in Coffman Union have multiple uses, including providing services to students and producing revenue that helps support the operations of the student union facilities. To create more student group office space would come at a cost of reduced services and programs, or increased student service fees to replace lost revenues. Coffman Memorial Union compares well to other student unions in the percentage of space available for student group office space. The average percentage of office space dedicated to student groups nationally is 5% of total building space, while Coffman Union currently dedicates 8% of building space to student groups.

16. Can more student group space be created somewhere else on campus?

The Board of Governors forwarded this concern on to Jerry Rinehart, past Vice Provost for Student Affairs. Current space on campus is limited; however there may be options to explore. There is a cost to use and maintain office space and funds would need to be allocated via student services fees or elsewhere to support more space.

17. If our student group needs office space, where can we go to get space on campus?

If your group is affiliated with a University Department (campus life group) you may want to check with the department to see if they can provide office space. Other options are to lease space near campus.

18. If my group does not have office space, can I request to use another group's space?

Groups that will continue to have space have indicated a willingness to have other group's use or share their space. This question was discussed and will be further reviewed by the SFAC.

19. Why is there concern over the legal implications of how office space is allocated?

There is no current legal challenge to the space allocation process. However, former chairs of the 2010 student services fees committees questioned the use of student service fees because there had been little turnover in student group spaces. The Board of Governors responded by recommending that 20% of the second floor space be redesigned as a multi-use space available for all registered student groups, At the same time, the Board recommended that the cultural centers should remain and keep their same percentage (68%) of the second floor space.

Following is a link to the March 2, 2010 letter from the 2010 student groups Student Service Fees Committee and a link to an open forum video on October 18, 2010, where several legal cases involving the use of student service fees were cited.

20. What was the time line for the redesign to Coffman Union's second floor?

September 2011
Developed plan for Second Floor Advisory Committee, determined role of committee, and worked with student group stakeholders to define how various constituencies would be represented.

October 2011-March 2012:
Second Floor Advisory Committee meetings, developed guiding principles and timeline, received input from other students, and developed survey to assess what services and resources students need to support their student group. Committee reviewed existing research, worked with designers to discuss options and developed various plans, and space locations and adjacencies.

March 2012
Second Floor Advisory Committee made recommendation to Board of Governors to vote on space locations and adjacencies.

April 2012
Board of Governors approved Second Floor Advisory Committee recommendation for office space locations and adjacencies.

September-April 2013
Second Floor Advisory Committee met and developed of final design for second floor. Final design recommended to Board of Governors and approved.

June–August 2013
Remodeling construction of second floor.

September 2013
Student groups with semi-permanent space move in, mixed use/lounge space is available to all registered student groups.

See the Second Floor Advisory Committee Time Line for the Redesign